Can the F-word bring back the R-rated comedy? Sony certainly hopes so. So do we.
It’s been six long years since an R-rated comedy opened above $30M. That’s a shocking statistic, given that R-rated comedies used to debut above $30M on a regular basis.
Credit can be given to Judd Apatow, who ushered in a decade-long run of comedies that began with THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2015, $21M opening) and hit its stride with the one-two punch of SUPERBAD and KNOCKED UP in 2007. Over the next decade, more than 20 R-rated comedies opened above $30M thanks to a generation of superstars, including Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Will Ferrell.
Seemingly overnight, however, that run ended in 2017 with GIRLS TRIP. What happened? What has caused this 6-year dry spell? There are undoubtedly several factors, but a line can be drawn to 2014 when Adam Sandler signed a landmark four-film deal with Netflix.
The first release from that deal, THE RIDICULOUS 6, debuted on the streamer in late 2015. That was also that last year that multiple $30 million R-rated comedies opened in theaters. Coincidence?
After BEASTS OF NO NATION, THE RIDICULOUS 6 was only the second original film ever released by Netflix, but its impact was profound. Suddenly, people could see first-run Hollywood films at home without paying for VOD or waiting months for the post-theatrical window. It was comedy that suffered more than any other genre.
Earlier this year, in a study commissioned by The Cinema Foundation, we asked filmgoers what genre they wanted to see more of in theaters. Comedy ranked 1st. So, we know there is an appetite for comedy on the big screen. And yet we still haven’t seen comedies return to the glory days of the mid-2010s.
Yes, THE LOST CITY was a success. But it was PG-13, and it relied as much on action as it did on laughs. The straight-up R-rated offerings have yet to connect with UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT ($7.1M), THE MACHINE ($5M), and BROS ($4.9M), all misfiring.
Thankfully, studios aren’t giving up. Next week, audiences will get the deliciously lewd NO HARD FEELINGS. Will it be the first R-rated comedy to open above $30M since 2017? At the moment, It looks like a long shot. Having said that, tracking for the film has been on the rise since Sony began leaning into the F-word.
On May 25th, Sony released a second red-band trailer that garnered this headline from Variety:
The F-word has also been featured in the film’s socials.
That red-band trailer, released on May 25th, appears to be an inflection point for the film. At the time, awareness for the film was stuck at 22%. Since then, awareness has climbed 13 points to 35%.
Interest in the film has also climbed two points from 43%to 45% since the trailer.
At the same time, The Quorum’s opening weekend forecast has been trending up. At six-weeks out, the forecast was for an opening between $12 and $15M. That projection was trending down between May 11th and May 25th when the red-band trailer came out. Since then, in conjunction with the rise in awareness and interest, the forecast has been climbing.
As of now, the projected opening sits at $13M-$15M. That’s still a far cry from yesteryear’s $30M openings. But it’s a move in the right direction. Fans of comedy would love nothing more than to see this film overperform. And with just over one week to go, there’s time for the forecast to go even higher. But for now, we say keep leaning into the F-word. It’s clearly working.